A Tour of 2009 Stags Leap District

Hehe, I think I went a little overboard signing up for wine tastings. But I couldn’t help it! Bill’s tasting seminars, 1.5 hours each, are not only really fantastic ways to taste wines of a certain theme, learn about them, but are also incredible value for money. And when I found out about the rare line-up of 2009 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon that he was hosting, how could I resist?

Anyway, we tasted these 12 cabernets (except for the Cliff Lede, the wines were 100% from Cabernet Sauvignon) in pairs of 2, beginning from the southern part of Stags Leap District. Though this district makes only 4% of Napa’s wines, it’s arguably the most prestigious. Bill described the wines from this area as “Goldilocks wines”… their tannins aren’t too harsh; their structure not too soft; their fruit not too ripe…

Terlato Family Vineyards $61
Of this first pair, I found that the Terlato had that “sweaty armpit” aroma. I couldn’t taste much of a body; it seemed instead a wine more of texture than taste. Long finish, with soft by gritty tannins.

Chimney Rock Winery “Ganymede Vineyard” $120
The Chimney Rock got my vote of the two wines. Softer nose, more fruit – black cherries, cassis. Wood and spice in the nose and mouthfeel. Incidentally, Chimney Rock was recently acquired by Terlato.

Hartwell Vineyards “Estate Reserve” $140
Ribena! Definitely blackcurrant. On subsequent sniffs, I caught a whiff of what seemed like ketchup. Haha, it’s really fascinating though, how the wine throws up new aromas every time I stick my nose into the glass.

This was another one of those “little penis bottles“, although, in this case, the winemaker certainly wasn’t trying to make up for his wine. Quite delicious, with soft tannins too.

Compared to the Stag’s Leap “Fay” though, I’d have to rate the “Fay” more favorably, in part because the latter is almost half the price, and in part because the “Fay” had a less bitter, more sweet finish. But I do like this.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Fay Vineyard” $80
Earth! Cigar smoke! Burnt marshmallow! Long finish, and slightly sweeter than the Hartwell, so this got my vote of the pair.

Pine Ridge Vineyards $70
Very intense wine – in the nose and the body. Tons of spice. Wasn’t my favorite of the pair, though Robert and another guy sitting by me said this was one of their favorites of the evening.

Steltzner Vineyards “Martini Clone” $55
Of the pair, the Steltzner got my vote. It was gentler, though I detected some funky notes in the nose. Dettol?? Rubber glove? Balloon? Fairly faint, but I wasn’t the only one who picked out these smells. The wine tasted bright – of currants, cherries and plum (someone said pluot).

Lindstrom Wines $106
Aged for 20 months in 80% new French oak
One of my favorites of the tasting. Slight metal in the nose, but then I also smelled and tasted brewed ice tea. Mmm. Very soft tannins – juicy and silky

Taylor Family Vineyards “Reserve” $105
Aged for 30 months in 80% new French oak
The first note that hit me when I lifted the glass to my nose was MINT. Then barnyard, then vanilla. Definitely quite a bit of caramel. Bill felt it was too dried out, and too attenuated from all that time in the wood. He even came out to say that it was “bullshit for $100”. Haha. I liked it enough, but the Lindstrom was clearly superior.

Silverado Vineyards “Solo” $85
Of this next pair, the Silverado quite easily got my vote. Gorgeous perfume – not intense, but very light and subtle, like a slight breeze in a cherry orchard on a cool summer’s day. This was one of my favorite wines of the evening.

Stags’ Leap Winery “The Leap” $75
Erm, I couldn’t really get past the strong stench of loam on this one. Too earthy for me.

Shafer Vineyards “One Point Five” $75
My favorite of the evening, and for its price, a relative bang for the buck! It stood out as the most balanced wine – some earth mingled with fruit in the nose, berries and silky tannins in the mouth. Around me, people were exclaiming their delight as well.

My notes from a previous Napa Cab tasting; Dot had bought a Shafer from Bill for us to taste, and it was too our favorite then

Cliff Lede Vineyards “Cinnamon Rhapsody” $95
This was the lone blend of the evening: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petite Syrah, 1% Malbec, 1% Merlot

I quite liked this too. It had a bigger pop than the other wines; explosion of fruit in the front of my mouth, before easing up into a long finish. Smooth, with notes of coffee and chocolate.

We didn’t quite know how to pronounce the name of the winery initially, until Robert hit upon the idea of calling the winery. He got the voicemail – it’s pronounced “lady”, with a French emphasis on the “y”. 🙂

Overall, an excellent tasting! Can’t wait for tomorrow’s Riesling line up.


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